Which is better? To give a hungry family a basket of good fish that will feed them for a week, or a fishing net and lessons on the art of fishing? In Bible studies, one often hears the question, “What does this passage mean to you?” This question is misleading in that it places meaning with the reader of the text. Rather, we are to ask, “What did the author of this text intend to communicate to his readers, and how can that be brought into our own context?”
One of TLI’s courses is Hermeneutics, an introduction to the method of interpreting and applying the Bible. This method of interpretation consists of two main parts: making careful observations of the text (leading to a better understanding of the author’s intended meaning), and developing theological principles that will aid the application of the text in our own context. The course provides reliable principles and a hands-on approach with which to study, interpret, and apply the Bible faithfully in our own culture. In other words, students are given the tools with which to fish for themselves, rather than being given a fish to eat.
The approach will be comprised mainly of observing the small details and the overall design of each text in light of the roles for interpreting that particular genre of Scripture. Knowledge of the cultural contexts in which the biblical documents were written will be examined to help us better grasp the meaning of each text. The goal of this course is to give students the tools they need to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). We believe that proper interpretation of the Bible (resulting in correct understanding and application) will enable the pastor to correctly use Scripture “for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The Word of God is our life (Deut. 32:7) and correct interpretation is a matter of life and death. Right interpretation enables us to know and be known by Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
The story is told that a missionary attended a church in East Africa and heard a sermon from Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira. The pastor told his people that congregation that the correct application was that they should not come late to church services. When people hear this, they laugh, but is that the correct response? Rather, we should weep that the truth of the Word is not proclaimed. There are many well-meaning pastors struggling to feed their flocks, who lack the tools to do it effectively. TLI seeks to be part of the solution to this problem.